Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/1365 Regional policy (Review of regional policy; draft White Paper on regional industrial policy; review of urban policy and Urban Programme) (Part 6) 1983 Nov 2 1984 Sep 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/566 Prime Minister (Meeting with David Watkins MP to discuss closure of Consett steelworks) 1981 Feb 12 1981 Mar 13 2011 Dec 30 Confidential 20
PREM19/226 European Policy (European Community budget) (Part 8) 1980 Apr 29 1980 Jun 3 2010 Dec 30 Secret 251
PREM19/2252 Industrial Policy (Research and development) (Part 3) 1986 Oct 13 1987 Mar 27 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2973 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 19) 1988 Apr 5 1990 Apr 30 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/2137 Energy (North Sea oil prices; petrol prices; world oil market) (Part 3) 1986 Feb 4 1987 Feb 28 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2598 Civil Service (Election of officials in the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA)) 1981 Nov 13 1986 Jul 7 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1626 Security (Leak of information on sinking of Argentine warship General Belgrano in 1982 to Tam Dalyell MP: confession and trial of Clive Ponting) (Part 1) 1984 Aug 10 1985 Feb 2 2014 Dec 30 Secret 294
PREM19/147 Civil Service (Long-term management and manpower policy: efficiency of central government; Civil Service manpower; Sir Derek Rayner’s recommendations for reforms) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1980 Apr 10 2010 Dec 30 Secret 162
PREM19/486 Immigration (The Nationality Bill) (Part 1) 1979 Jul 26 1981 Oct 29 2011 Dec 30 Secret 150
PREM19/1286 Ireland (Situation in Northern Ireland) (Part 16) 1984 Apr 10 1984 Jun 28 2014 Jan 3
PREM19/948 Aerospace (Presentation by Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace to Prime Minister and other Ministers on aerospace) 1983 Sep 6 1983 Nov 22 2013 Aug 1 Confidential 58
PREM19/2155 European Policy (European Council meeting, London, December 1986; briefing papers) (Part 23A) 1986 Nov 27 1986 Dec 6 2016 Jul 21
PREM19/2796 Parliament (Boundary Commission reviews of Parliamentary constituencies in Wales and the UK) (Part 2) 1986 Jul 11 1989 Jan 18 Retained Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1541 Industrial policy (Industrial action in the oil industry: possible tanker drivers' strike; contingency planning) 1979 Nov 30 1985 Oct 28 2014 Dec 30 Secret 187

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